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OPINION: The Paris Agreement in action – implementing Bangladesh’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)

James Harries of Ricardo of Energy & Environment shares his observations as part of a CDKN project to assist the Government of Bangladesh implement its  Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

The Paris Agreement marks a new phase in global efforts to tackle climate change. But nonetheless, it is sometimes hard to dispel the nagging doubts at the back of your mind: Will this really lead to action on the ground? How do I know it’s not just a talking shop? The Paris Agreement looks fine on paper but what actual impacts will it have on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to unavoidable climate change?

Well I’m happy to report that the signs are good! Ricardo Energy and Environment is at the frontline of work to turn the Paris Agreement into concrete action. With the support of the Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN), we are working with the Government of Bangladesh and local consultancy firm Nature Conservation Management (Nacom), to start implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) that we supported the Government of Bangladesh to develop last year . The project will develop: (1) sectoral action plans for the power, transport and industry sectors (the sectors in the INDCs that contributed to overall GHG reductions), (2) an over-arching NDC implementation plan that covers cross-cutting issues across these sectors and (3) a report on capacity needs for implementing the NDC. Last month I spent a week in Dhaka for the project’s kick-off mission, meeting a range of Bangladeshi stakeholders. Below are a few observations that I brought home.

Strike while the iron is hot!

While talking to stakeholders in Dhaka about the Paris Agreement and Bangladesh’s NDC, one thing was very noticeable – there was still a good level of understanding and support for the NDC. For many stakeholders this was not necessarily seen as part of their ‘day job’. Nonetheless, people were very engaged, had clearly remembered the work that went into developing Bangladesh’s NDC and were keen to make progress on implementation. Following the Paris climate talks, many people wondered whether the momentum would be sustained or whether interest and enthusiasm would wane or get pushed out by other priorities. The signs in Bangladesh are that the momentum is still very much there. But it also made it clear to me that it is important to make progress on implementation while the case is still relevant. There is therefore a benefit in moving the NDC implementation agenda forward this year.

Clear and robust plans will help discussions with funders

A fundamental premise of the Paris Agreement is that developed countries continue to support developing countries on low carbon and climate resilient development. Funders are more likely to be willing to provide support if they can see that clear and robust plans are in place, showing not only what will be done and by when and by whom, but also how it will be coordinated and what the impacts will be. Developing sectoral action plans that show this is one way of putting the country in a great position to kick-start discussions with funders on support.

Integration is key

Very few countries are starting from a blank slate. In most cases there will be national economic and development plans already in place, and possibly even existing climate change strategies and action plans. For NDC implementation to work, it needs to be embedded and integrated into these existing documents and processes. In Bangladesh’s case, the Seventh Five Year Plan is the central driver of government policy. Bangladesh also has a plethora of other national and sectoral master plans and strategies. The success of NDC implementation lies not just in drafting coherent and robust action plans for delivering greenhouse gas reductions in the power, transport and energy sectors, but the content of these being reflected in other key strategic documents.

Continue to make the case for action

I was really pleased with the level of support and enthusiasm shown by the government of Bangladesh for taking this work forward. That said, there were still concerns expressed by some stakeholders regarding the cost of implementing the plan, its implications on economic growth and the level of support it would garner. A key message from our project is that NDC implementation can and should be synergistic with Bangladesh’s plans for economic development. Countries wanting to implement their NDC should create opportunities for communication and engagement with stakeholders to address such concerns and to ensure an ongoing buy-in for NDC implementation.

Capacity, capacity, capacity!

In discussions with stakeholders, capacity came through as a central prerequisite to successful NDC implementation. Bangladesh to an extent, has the capacity for NDC implementation, yet there is room for further capacity building. Clearly setting out capacity building needs in one place can help focus discussions with funders on how best to address these needs. To this end, one of the outputs of the project will be an analysis paper on capacity needs for NDC implementation. This can then be submitted to the Paris Committee on capacity building to inform their thinking on the kind of support countries need to build capacity.

Moving forward

It’s really exciting to be part of this project and to see Bangladesh take a progressive role in taking forward its NDC. While each country’s approach to NDC implementation will be specific to its national circumstances, there are common challenges and solutions to cope with. We should therefore continue to look for opportunities to share experiences, examples and best practices among countries to make this a global collaborative effort.

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